The weekend is here and that means the papers bring out their big guns for the Friday edition. Haaretz has what may be their most unorthodox front page in the paper’s nearly century-long history. Even for Israel’s closest approximation of the gray lady, the page is remarkably gray, with nary a picture aside from a couple referrals to inside stories. Instead, the top half of the page is dominated by a stark and heartrending piece by celebrated Israeli novelist on the case of Omar Abu Jariban, a Gazan who in 2008 stole a car in Israel, was injured while driving it, was transferred to a police station while still needing medical attention, and who was allegedly left to die on the side of the road by a number of policemen who did not know what do with him. (Unfortunately the piece does not appear in the paper’s English edition, which did not have the rights to translate it in full.) “Ever since I’ve heard the story it’s become harder for me to breathe the air here,” Grossman writes. “Again and again I think about that trip in the cruiser, as if something in me is left there, stuck in me and not able to leave.”
The page is also unique for a large ad on the bottom of the front page, taken out by the newspaper’s journalists themselves, on why they declare a work dispute, which is the first step toward going on strike. The ad calls on the paper’s readers to send a letter supporting the journalists to the paper’s owner and publisher, Amos Shocken, who must have approved the ad’s placement. (Full disclosure, I worked at Haaretz up until three weeks ago and was tangentially involved in the beginnings of this process.)
Maariv leads off with a massive tell-all from Gila Edrey, the train workers union head who was maligned earlier this week for calling a wildcat strike and then going up north for some R & R instead of complying with the court’s orders to get the RR rolling again. Edrey uses the space to defend herself, and Maariv picks the raciest quotes, literally, for the front page, highlighting her making the issue into one of Ashkenazi (read of Eastern European extraction) domination of Mizrahi (read of Middle Eastern or North African extraction) workers, essentially, the Israeli version of pulling the race card.
“Their management of me was an Ashkenazi war using Ashkenazi tactics. They hug you and at the same time stab you in back,” a large quote splashed across the front page reads. “Most of the unions by us are from Mizrahi communities. We came with courage … I never saw myself as Mizrahi. Just Israeli. But they are too cold, so there’s nothing to do,” she adds.
Yedioth Ahronoth reports on the ”revolving door” for terrorists freed in the Gilad Shalit deal, who are now back behind bars after returning to their old ways. The paper cites defense sources who say that many of those freed are attempting to rebuild the infrastructure to carry out new terror attacks. There is a specific fear that they will attempt to kidnap another Israeli in order to bargain for the release of the rest of their brethren from prison. Hamas has reportedly complained that arresting the four represents an abrogation of the deal, but Israel maintains that the terrorists were freed on the condition they not return to attempting attacks on Israelis.
Maariv reports that one of the four, apparently taking her cue from Khader Adnan, who recently won his freedom by fasting for 66 days, is also going on hunger strike.
Israel Hayom leads with President Shimon Peres’s statement Thursday night that all options are on the table in terms of dealing with Iran. The comment was noteworthy as it came on the heels of a Haaretz report that morning that Peres would tell Obama that Israel should not strike Iran. Commenting on Peres’s words, Dan Margalit writes that instead of making headlines, Israeli officials should be careful to present a unified front on the issue to the world. “Senior Israeli personalities need to [back] the military option, since only if Iran takes it as a serious possibility will there be a chance of getting them to stop their nuclear project without [an attack],” he writes. “This is the time to remind Israeli personalities still in the spotlight that keeping quiet would be good for them.”
The papers also devote space to the imminent reopening of Route 12, the road to Eilat that skirts the Egyptian border, which has been closed since a series of coordinated terror attacks on the road seven months ago. Israel has beefed up security along the road, with a brand-spanking new 7-meter-high fence, advanced cameras, upped patrols and more. Israel was already planning to build a fence there, to keep out immigrants sneaking in from Africa, but in the wake of the fall of Hosni Mubarak and the attacks, the fence took on a new role and new urgency.
“The security situation has changed in an essential way along the whole western border,” an IDF officer told reporters. “Before the fence was nothing more than a token symbol showing the border, now there is a meaningful obstacle.”
Yedioth Ahronoth has a story giving another twist to the sordid Natan Eshel affair. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the press his top aides fell out of favor for not going to him about harassment allegation against Eshel, his bureau chief. But Yedioth reports that by law the three were not allowed to report the allegations to him, but to investigators instead, as they did. Thus, the paper says, Netanyahu pushed the three out (one was all but fired, one is staying but likely not for long and one was scheduled to leave anyway) because he preferred Eshel, pointing to the emotional parting between the two of them earlier in the week, in which Netanyahu hugged Eshel and they ate cheesecake (really).
Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi uses the pages of Yedioth to weigh in on the Tal Law, which allows full-time yeshiva students to defer being drafted into the army and which was overturned by the High Court this week. He calls for the top recruits to be sent into the military, while the rest, secular, religious or Arab, do national, nonmilitary service. “This isn’t the time for cheap politics,” he writes. “The decision of the court hints that for Israel, frail, torn and fighting under real threats, the security of the country trumps the security of the coalition.”
Haaretz op-ed writer Nehemia Shtrasler disagrees, writing that military and national service are not equal. “If we had real leaders, they would stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes and tell us the truth to our faces – everyone has to serve in the army. With no exceptions. It is no longer possible to continue with the ultra-Orthodox cowardice and evasion. It is not possible to continue with a situation in which only Haredi mothers are able to sleep soundly at night.”